Simon Williams: The English Opening - Vol 2

by Davide Nastasio
11/9/2015 – Since his junior days Simon Williams has been in love with the English Opening. A rewarding love - as Williams points out, the opening helped him to become a grandmaster. Williams now wants to share what he knows and on two DVDs he offers White a solid and aggressive English repertoire. Davide Nastasio tried it out. Here is his review of volume 2.

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Simon Williams: The English Opening - Vol 2: a review

In his second DVD on the English Opening GM Simon Williams shows how to fight the symmetrical English, King's Indian setups, and the Grunfeld.

Symmetrical English: 1.c4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.a3!? (10 videos)

One of the games Williams uses as example in this section is by the English GM Tony Kosten, whose book on the English appeared in 1999.

Williams read the book at the beginning of his career and updated some of the ideas in the book for his DVD. The following game by Kosten is a nice miniature which proves the power of the English:


Symmetrical English: Black tries to deviate with d5 (2 games)

Playing against the Kings Indian Defense: 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 g6 3.g3 Bg7 (4 videos)


Playing against the Grunfeld: 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 (2 videos)

A different type of Slav: 1.c4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.e3!? (3 videos)

In the last two videos Williams shows how to play against the English Defense and the Dutch.

Williams finishes with eleven videos with exercises to give the reader an opportunity to test how much he understood and remembered of the previous videos. Like Williams’ first DVD on the English, his second DVD also has a database with extra games to study – this time Williams selected 55 games that help to study the repertoire.

When watching these delightful DVDs I thought again and again that Williams should seriously consider the idea to become a chess comedian! For instance, in one of the videos he showed a line in which White gained a pawn and jokingly said that one could not ask more from a DVD – a grandmaster giving a line where you win a pawn.

Now, for us amateurs a pawn doesn't seem much, but... reading here and there, I remember that in Steve Giddins' book on Bronstein (Bronstein: Move by Move, Everyman 2015) a line is given in which one side gives up a pawn to get control of the dark squares. In this case the black-square advantage was so powerful that it led to a winning position, and it is a sign of positional understanding to appreciate and play such pawn sacrifices. So when a GM like Williams gives us a line in which I win a pawn, I do pay attention, and I do believe the price of the DVD is entirely worth this lesson.

I tried to play as many online games as possible with the English but my opponents (most often club players) frequently decided to leave the theoretical path quite early. Thus, I would welcome a third volume on the English by Simon Williams – one that deals with lines club players often play and recommendations what to do against them.

For example: After 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 d6 Williams does not offer a model game but he drilled it into my brain to play 4.d4 in such position.

4.g3 is also a popular move in this position – the Megabase 2015 has 876 games with 4.d4 and 635 with 4.g3 – and 4.g3 is a favorite of players such as Karpov, Grischuk, Lautier etc.) After 4...exd4 5.Nxd4 the Mega offers 200 games with 5...Be7 showing that this line is played regularly (among the classical players who liked to play this position with Black are names such as Alekhine, Réti, Tartakower, while in the present Karpov's name comes up quite a lot). So there is good reason and enough material for a third DVD, and I think GM Williams should definitely do a third volume to cover more main "sidelines."

Another line which I encountered in my practical tests with the English was 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Bc5!?. Black obviously understood that I wanted to take control of d4, and thus reinforces control over d4 himself. 2…Bc5 might appear strange at first but was played in more than 400 games.

On the other hand, this opening asks the player to take responsibility, study and "remember" – which is not my "forte". One of my bullet games is a case in point. It started with 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.d4 d6.

In the heat of battle I had simply forgotten what Williams recommends, namely a totally different approach: 1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.Nc3 0-0 5.d3 d6.

But that is the reason why I practice my openings online and with different time controls: I see what I remember and what I do not, and after the games I quickly go over them to compare my choice in the opening with the recommended lines on the DVDs.

All in all I found that the DVDs offer White an excellent repertoire of the English Opening. It took me less than a month to master most of the lines, and I was able to use them in some of my tournament games. I particularly liked the honesty of Simon Williams – you feel that he really wants the student to do well and he gives all the information he can. After having studied his two DVDs on the English I will also look at his work on the king's gambit. I like the way he teaches, and I learned a lot.

Sample video

Simon Williams:
The English Opening Vol. 2

• Video running time: 5 h 50 min
• With interactive training including video feedback
• Training database with over 50 essential games
• Including CB 12 Reader

€25.13 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU)
$27.28 (without VAT)

This DVD can be be downloaded directly from the Internet

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Davide is a novel chess aficionado who has made chess his spiritual tool of improvement and self-discovery. One of his favorite quotes is from the great Paul Keres: "Nobody is born a master. The way to mastery leads to the desired goal only after long years of learning, of struggle, of rejoicing, and of disappointment..."


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